Protectionism, and economic nationalism more generally, are usually held up by the supposed sophisticates
today as dumb ideas. Sometimes, of course, they are. Bone-headed protectionism belongs in the junkyard of
history with all the other ideologies rusting there. Nothing in this booklet is intended to defend it. But it can
also be a smart, productive, pro-growth policy—and very much in the American and conservative traditions—
when implemented correctly.
The fundamental message of this booklet is that nations, including the U.S., should seek strategic, not uncon-
ditional integration with the rest of the world economy. Economic openness, like most things in life, is valuable
up to a point—but not beyond it. The Founding Fathers knew that, and wrote our Constitution to reflect it. Fairly
open trade, most of the time, is justified. Absolutely free trade, 100 percent of the time, is an extremist position
and is not. It is not a conservative, but a libertarian and globalist, policy.
Don’t misunderstand: it’s not trade per se that’s the problem. But trade, and free trade, are not the same thing.
Remember that when somebody tries to tell you how wonderful free trade is: they’re probably just giving argu-
ments in favor of trade. Nobody on the protectionist side is suggesting we become North Korea, but there are
very serious reasons why free trade is not sound economics, and the longer America clings to the free-trade
delusion, the higher the price we will pay. Indeed, abandoning it is almost certainly a necessary, if not
sufficient, condition for revitalizing our economy.
If one would, in a sitting of a single hour, understand where and why America converted from the economic
patriotism of Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, Jackson, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Calvin
Coolidge to the free-trade ideology of academics and ideologues, none of whom ever built a great nation, let
me commend a splendid pamphlet from The Conservative Caucus. It is a short story of national decline, of how
a nation that converted itself in its first century from 13 agricultural colonies into the greatest industrial power
the world had ever seen began to kick it all away in the third century of its existence. — Pat Buchanan,